Is There A Difference Between Being A Dad Vs. Father?

Updated September 21, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

There’s a frequently used quote: "Any man can become a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad." This particular quote, along with several other parenting quotes, statements, and jokes, tells us that many people feel that there is a difference between the definition of a father and a dad. It seems that to many people, the word father has a more formal connotation, while the word dad is warm and loving. Knowing the difference is key to being the parent that you truly want to be.

What Are The Qualities Of A Dad?

Caring For Your Kids Starts With Caring For Yourself

If a great dad raised you, you likely know some of his best qualities and try to emulate them. Dads are great guys that have their priorities straight and understand what is most important in this life. They love their children no matter what and teach them the ways of the world. So, what is a dad?

Loving And Doesn't Hide Emotion

Being a dad is a role that is not given by accident. They may have been tough before kids, but living with their children has created a soft spot that has made them better than the person they were before.

Good dads hug their kids and do not feel weak for doing it in public. They will show love in many forms: gestures, attentiveness, and verbal affection. They often get emotional at moving moments with their kids. They work at ensuring that their children know that they are loved.


Dads play with their kids. They don't pass up the chance to get a laugh out of their children. Whether it’s having a tea party or playing ball with their little ones, they develop a relationship that their children value. Bonds are formed during laughter and happy times that kids won't forget.

Being a playful dad is fun for both the dad and the kids, and it makes parenting easier! Having a few minutes of fun will make your child more agreeable and distracts them from the issue at hand. Dads are seen to have this figured out!

Good Listeners

The best of dads listen when their children speak. It doesn't matter if they are two years old and babbling about nothing or 17 and dealing with their first heartbreak; a dad will listen to every word. They do so actively and make their child feel as though there is nothing more important than what they have to say. 

Good dads are often loaded with great advice. A lot of dads have advice because of how well they know their children. After listening to them and being fully present in their lives, dads better understand their children's personalities and strengths.


Good dads teach their children how to be self-sufficient. This often includes teaching life skills, like self defense, how to change a tire, or how to mow their grass. Dads make sure their kids do not have to rely on other people to do everyday tasks.


What do you think is the biggest differentiating factor between a dad and a father?

  • The amount of time he invests in his children 
  • The amount of visible love he shares (like hugs) 
  • How actively he listens to his children
  • All are equally important

Respects The Mother Of Their Children

No matter the relationship between mom and dad, a good dad always treats their mother with respect. They might be experiencing problems in their relationship, but they never mistreat their child’s mother. While relationship counseling might help immensely, even hard times require kindness. Demonstrating to your children how to treat others is an example that parents are responsible for.

Dads teach their children how a partner should be treated and how they should expect to be treated. This is one of the most important things a dads can do for their families.

Qualities Of A Father

For some people, a father is simply another word for a dad. In modern explanations, however, fathers are the men that played a part in creating children. It often has a negative connotation that dads like to avoid.

To be a dad, the following qualities should not be something that a man aspires to do.

When Dad Or Father Is Asked To Be Present

A man should not have to be asked to be present in his children's lives. School plays, soccer games, and difficult homework should include the presence of both parents. While it is understandable that a dad may not be at every event, it should still be prioritized whenever possible.

Fathers, in the modern sense, are those that fail to see the importance of being active in their children’s lives. They might not see how important it is to be in the stands at a sporting event or make an effort to spend time with their children. They have to be told to do these things.

Graduations, baptisms, championship games are treated as just another day of the week for fathers. They fail to see the importance of the event –  or perhaps they fail to see the importance of their child. 

Although a father can learn from a dad in all aspects of parenting, this is a good place to start. Fathers must attempt to be there for the big moments to take a step towards being a dad.

Has Priorities Over Their Family

Modern fathers have other activities, people, or things that take precedence over their family. It might be work, their favorite sports team, a new lady in their life, or even an Xbox. Other priorities can include addictions, like alcohol, drugs, gambling, and so on. 

If someone is regularly missing out on important events in their children's lives because of something else that they find more important, they are a father and not a dad. If they are missing everyday events that are not as important, they still should re-evaluate priorities. Being a dad requires being involved in the everyday just as much as the big things.

Practices Selfishness

When it comes to their children, a dad’s selfish ambitions get placed on the back burner. When a father has a child, nothing changes. Their money is their own, their time belongs to themselves, and their interests remain the same. There is no desire for anything to change, so little to no effort is put forth in parenting their children.

When children enter the picture, parents usually become less selfish than they were before. They must spend their hard-earned money on the needs of their children, give up their free time to take care of them, and even give up some hobbies and interests. A dad does this. A father does not.

Too Busy For Family Time

Fathers might provide financially for their family by working non-stop, but dads provides their time just as much as their paycheck. When work takes fathers away from their family far too often, and they make little attempt to lessen their workload, they finds themselves too busy or exhausted to spend time with their families. 

How Each Parenting Style Affects Your Children

Getty/Daniel Tardif
Caring For Your Kids Starts With Caring For Yourself

Were you a child with a dad or a father? If you had a dad, you might have wonderful memories and a continued relationship to this day.

If you had a father, you may have felt a lot of disappointment, although it likely faded once you grew accustomed to the fact that you didn't have a dad. In many cases, children with an absent father may experience depression or other mental health concerns. 

Do You Want To Be a Better Dad? How Regain Can Help

Many feel as though they want to do better than their fathers, so they work extra hard to be a dad. Others had wonderful dads and work hard to be just as good. Some find it challenging to emulate a dad's parenting style that they never had. Yet it is absolutely possible – especially with help – to learn to be a good dad even if you never had a strong role model growing up. 

There is a growing body of research finding that postpartum depression and anxiety affects fathers, not just mothers. In fact, research is finding that around 13% (or a little over one in 10) new fathers experiences post-partum depression. Literature reviews have found that fathers experiencing depression often have different symptoms than mothers with depression – including withdrawing from social situations, increased cynicism, irritable moods, and indecisiveness. Some of the leading causes have to do with financial stress, lack of quality sleep, and marital strain. 

Another thing that separates dads from fathers is that they are willing to do what it takes to help their families – even if that requires asking for help. Studies have found that men are less likely to get therapy. However, research has found that therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) – the most popular form of therapy due to its success for a variety of mental health conditions – can help fathers learn to better manage their stress, depression, and anxiety that often comes with fatherhood. 

CBT works by helping patients identify false and negative thoughts and beliefs, then reframing them into healthier thought processes. Several studies have found that online CBT (iCBT) is just as effective in many situations as in-person therapy. For many, online therapy is also a less expensive option.


One of the biggest aspects of being a dad is simply making an effort to be there for your kids. This can be difficult though if you are experiencing mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Seeking help is one of the best things you can do for your kids. Regain makes it easy. Reach out today. 

Read below for therapist reviews of individuals experiencing similar issues.

Therapist Reviews

“Denae has a strong background in child psychology. We came to her because we're figuring out how to navigate our first year with a newborn together. I Highly recommend this counselor.”

“Dr Bown has made significant impact in our lives and She is always giving honest advice and we feel she genuinely cares about our family. She is a valued treasure that we are grateful for in our lives :)”

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